The site is not really a site at all but an overlay that lives on top of Web 2.0 content, such as Wikipedia, Facebook and Flickr. When you head to skittles.com, you're prompted to enter your age and agree to a terms of service that acknowledges that the content beyond this page is not Skittles content.
The site then loads Skittles' Wikipedia page with a rectangular navigation overlay: Click on "Friends" and it takes you to the company's Facebook page; click on "Chatter" and you're taken to the Twitter feed. The release announcing the site said the landing page will change regularly. While it's Wikipedia today it might be its YouTube channel tomorrow.
A year ago, Modernista made headlines with a similar approach. Typing in its URL took you to a Wikipedia page with a message of "Don't be alarmed. You are viewing Modernista through the eyes of the Web." To see video work, it took you to YouTube, while print work was housed on Flickr.
Modernista's site hit a snag a few days after it was up when Wikipedia removed the page, probably because a Wikipedia editor deemed it too promotional or having been created solely to promote its business. It was shortly thereafter reinstated, once Modernista proved it was not controlling the content.
The site was praised as brave, because Modernista wouldn't be able to control the content from the social sites it now calls home. Skittles will have to contend with similar circumstances. However, right now the Wikipedia page is fairly innocuous -- mostly full of lists of various flavors and variations.
And how does the Boston-based ad agency feel?
"We'll defer to public opinion on this one," said Gary Koepke, Modernista co-founder.
"I can't tell you that Modernista's site was the impetus or a source of concept for that," said Riccardo Zane, president of Agency.com, New York. "There's a bunch of sites like Modernista. In fact, Modernista 'stole' their approach from stuff that predates them by five or six years. Guggenheim had a site that's a floating nav, a number of search engines in the early days had a floating connection. If you look at a site like Musicovery.com, it's a floating nav concept that accesses Pandora, iTunes, a bunch of stuff depending on what people and users are saying. And I can't say our idea's a pure play idea, either. It builds and steals from others."
Mr. Zane added that "it's the first time it's been used in [consumer product goods] that I've known about. And it's the first time it's been used not to just access other areas of what people are talking about skittles but it's also a way to propagate that and stimulate that. So to that end I think it's quite unique."
An Agency.com spokeswoman said that "Skittles as a brand is all about embracing and empowering the conversation online -- just look at the YouTube entries and their Facebook page. Its kind of a natural evolution for them moving in to something like this."